Promoting conservation and inclusive development through ecotourism
We are the first generation living with the consequences of climate change. We have to be thinking of the next generation.”Veridique Musambaghani Kakule, 2021 Fellowship Alumnus, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Observed since 1980, World Tourism Day highlights the economic, developmental, and environmental significance of tourism. As international travel rebounds to pre-pandemic levels, this year’s theme, Rethinking Tourism, aims to inspire discussion on tourism’s potential as an engine of sustainable development.
2021 Fellowship Alumnus Veridique Musambaghani Kakule from the Democratic Republic of the Congo uses a novel approach to tourism to address the problems facing his community, including widespread poverty, hunger, internal conflict, and environmental degradation.
Powering inclusive growth through ecotourism
Veridique believes that the Congo can leverage its natural beauty through ecotourism to drive both economic development and environmental conservation. In 2018, he founded Kwafrika Travel, a tour company offering excursions in the Congo and four neighboring countries.
In addition to showcasing the region’s natural beauty to international tourists, Kwafrika Travel invests in the communities it operates in by hiring and training local youth as tour guides, drivers, and chefs. The company also supports local development projects to improve access to education, water, and sanitation.
Inspired by the proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go with others,” in 2020, Veridique joined with other Congolese tour operators and NGOs to form Groupe Utalii Kwetu. The organization, whose Swahili name means “tourism at home,” aims to combine its members’ resources and knowledge to promote ecotourism and conservation efforts in the Congo.
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go with others.
Investing in youth to protect the environment
Groupe Utalii Kwetu’s mission is to “win the minds” of the Congolese youth living near protected tropical forest areas that are disappearing at an alarming rate. He says young people “will be key in protecting and preserving that forest,” which he described as “the lungs of the world.” As the group’s coordinator, Veridique recruits teachers, researchers, and other staff to further the organization’s youth-focused mission.
The group, now in its pilot stage, is currently working with 25 schools to teach students about the importance of protecting the environment. “We don’t only focus on educating [students] in the classroom,” he explained, “we bring them in nature through learning expeditions.” The group also uses virtual reality technology to offer students experiences in nature without leaving school.
Through the Fellowship, we are being exposed to knowledge, we are being exposed to organizations, we are being exposed to people from not only Africa, but outside Africa… I have learned that as leaders, we should really be willing to serve.”Veridique Musambaghani Kakule, 2021 Fellowship Alumnus, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Understanding servant leadership
During his Fellowship, Veridique participated in a virtual Leadership in Business Institute with the University of Nevada, Reno. “Through the Fellowship, we are being exposed to knowledge, we are being exposed to organizations, we are being exposed to people from not only Africa, but outside Africa.” Connections like these, Veridique believes, are essential to help the continent become more “competitive, prosperous, and integrated.”
Veridique’s understanding of leadership has also evolved since participating in the Fellowship. “In Congo… when someone is seen as a chief, as a leader, he expects others to serve him,” he said. “I have learned that as leaders, we should really be willing to serve… When we serve, we attain our goal.”
Going forward, Veridique plans to expand his youth-focused tourism and conservation work. “We are the first generation living with the consequences of climate change,” he explained. “We have to be thinking of the next generation.”
Written by John Dashe.